With the State Cup sitting in the loaded trophy cabinet, Maccabi Playtika Tel Aviv begins the final phase of their season on Monday evening, hosting Hapoel Be'er Sheva (21:00, Live on Sport5 - Channel 55) in Menora Mivtachim Arena as part of Game 1 in a best of 3 series in the Israeli Winner League Quarter Finals. Giannis Sfairopoulos's squad didn't have much time to celebrate Thursday's title as their attention shifted quickly towards the attempt to lift the championship plate.
Sfairopoulos's coaching staff decided to leave out Othello Hunter, Eidan Alber, and Jonathan Atias, who won't participate in the series. The 12 players with whom Maccabi will try to qualify for the semifinals are Scottie Wilbekin, T.J Cline, Chris Jones, Angelo Caloiaro, Sandy Cohen, Omri Casspi, John DiBartolomeo, Oz Blayzer, Dragan Bender, Dori Sahar, Ante Zizic, and Yovel Zoosman.
"We are playing a hot team that won 4 of their last 5 games", Said head coach Giannis Sfairopoulos before game 1 of the series. "Be'er Sheva is playing a high tempo team basketball, scoring really well from outside, so we need to be very focused defensively to stop them. Offensively, we need to read and adjust to their different styles of defense while finding the best open shot with great team spirit".
"We finished the regular season in the first place, which gave us home-court advantage throughout the entire playoffs, and I expect to see our fans come out. We need to take advantage of our home, and with their presence and support, it will be easier for the team".
Oz Blayzer shared his feelings heading into the playoffs: "We are starting the playoff series, something we've been waiting and working for all season long. After grabbing the State Cup, our focus is to advance every phase to the championship giving ourselves a home-court advantage throughout the whole process. With that in meaning, I'm happy we will have a full arena, and I'm inviting all of the fans to come and push us because we need you".
This will be the first meeting between Maccabi and the southern Reds in the playoffs. This season, the Yellow & Blue split the games with B.S: A 100:74 home victory in the first round of the league but later in the season were defeated 79:93 in the Negev capital behind a monstrous 43 point performance by Caleb Agada. Rami Hadar's group comes in without Agada and Eric Griffin, who decided to leave the country during the last security situation.